Olympus 25mm lens: the new Normal

The Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens is the new Normal lens.



When I bought my first single lens reflex (SLR) camera in 1974, it came with a 50mm lens. This lens was often referred to as a “normal” lens because its focal length closely mimics the field of view of the human eye. Lenses with a focal length shorter than 35mm were considered “wide angle” lenses and those with focal lengths longer than 100mm were known as “telephoto” lenses. Zoom lenses were rare, expensive and considered to be inferior quality because of the additional glass elements.

I should also mention this was at a time well before an auto-focus lens was considered viable.

During this same time, Olympus introduced its OM-1 SLR 35mm film camera. This camera was primarily touted for its compact size.

Fast forward to the 21st century and we still try to reconcile the technology of film cameras with digital photography. With the advent of crop-sensor digital SLR cameras, the concept of lens focal length gets more confusing, requiring some quick multiplication with “crop factors” like 1.5 (Nikon) or 1.6 (Canon). As an example, a 50mm lens on a full frame camera is considered a normal lens, but that same lens mounted on a crop-sensor camera would result in a field of view more like a 75-80mm lens.

Adding to the crop-sensor arena, the Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) format was introduced in 2008. The M4/3 sensor is approximately one-half the diagonal measurement of a full frame sensor. Conveniently for the math-challenged, the crop-factor is 2, meaning a 50mm lens would have the field of view of a 100mm lens on a full frame camera.

Olympus entered the M4/3 market with a line of Pen cameras and in 2012 released its OMD E-M5 DSLR camera. This camera has retro designs that harken back to the original OM-1 camera, including the more compact body size. Recently Olympus completed the retro package when it introduced the 25mm f/1.8 lens for M4/3. This 25mm lens is my  new Normal lens.

The Olympus OM1 (left) and the OMD E-M5 DSLR (right) share a similar design style.

When the E-M5 and 25mm lens are positioned next to the original OM-1 with 50mm lens, it is apparent how retro the E-M5 is. It is also interesting to note how small the OM-1 really was; it is only slightly larger than the E-M5.

Head to head – the OM-1 camera was a small camera for its time, and is only slightly larger than the current E-M5.

The Olympus 25mm lens is small and light. It balances well when mounted on the E-M5 camera body. With a maximum aperture of f/1.8, it offers some very good low light capabilities. The construction of the lens is very solid. When using manual focus, the focus ring in well-dampened and smooth.

I put the lens on my silver E-M5 camera and headed out for a walk. I immediately felt like I was 17 again, the my brand-spanking-new fancy pants camera. The “normal” field of view was vaguely familiar, having many years of many different lenses since then to cloud my memory.

The lens focuses very quickly and quietly. Even at its widest aperture, the image area from edge to edge is sharp. The depth of field is not as shallow as its ancestors, due to the smaller sensor size. However, the 25mm lens does a great job at softening the background when used in the right conditions.

The Olympus 50mm lens on an E-M5 body. The metal lens hood doubles as a filter adapter, stepping up from 46mm to 52mm filter size.
I took a walk through a vintage mall. It seemed like the perfect location to take some retro-themed photos.
A former fruit-packing facility has been converted into an artist’s haven.


Plenty of soft-focus available at f/1.8.
This person died 97 years before JFK.
The normal field of view.
Making room for new development.
A new US Bank building stands above Capitol Mall.
Bird’s eye view.

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Fast Food – Food Photography on the Run


Tempura that stands on its own.


I recently wrapped up a couple of editorial assignments that required lip-smacking images of food.

When I approach food photography, I lean towards large simple lighting, clean backgrounds and authentic food appearances. This last point is important to me. I don’t change the food once the chef has handed it off for two reasons: I want to show the food exactly the way it was prepared, and more importantly, I will probably eat some of it when I’m done photographing it. I certainly don’t want to dress up the food with any products that aren’t part of the original recipe. So no motor oil on the meats for me, thank you.

Since I usually get to “shoot my cake and eat it too,”  this makes me very happy.

The challenges with food photography include working carefully to light the food so it looks its best and working quickly before the appeal of the food wears off. Freshly cooked food can lose its luster quickly.

The first assignment was a photo essay of a newly-opened Sushi/Karaoke Restaurant in downtown Sacramento. Oishii Sushi Bar and Grill is a visual treat. Located on the second level at 10th & K Streets, the large bar area is lit with remote-controlled LED lights that pulsate in different colors. In addition to the bar and restaurant seating areas, Oishii offers a number of private karaoke party rooms; some rooms are small and some are very large with several large TV screens.


Oishii Sushi Bar and Grill features LED-lit rooms

Since I was working on location, I brought a couple of small speedlights, adjustable radio triggers, a 24″ square softbox, Continue reading “Fast Food – Food Photography on the Run”

Two Weddings and No Funeral


Both of my sons were married this month; their weddings were actually 13 days apart. It has been a whirlwind of planning, excitement, chaos and pure joy. At one point, I nicknamed August as “Two Weddings and a Funeral,” with the joke that these two events would likely knock somebody off. Fortunately, we all survived just fine. Now that the weddings are over, I’ve been reflecting on the collective meaning of these events.

Kenny and Jeff are 17 months apart in age, so they grew up together as best buddies. Many of the photos I took over the years show both of them doing things together. Reading. Playing. Traveling. Sports. Parties.

Even today, they consider each other as best friends, so naturally they were each others’ “Best Man” at the weddings. When Jeff gave his Best Man toast, he spoke about all the ways that he and Kenny shared events together, including sports, hobbies and even friends. When Kenny gave his Best Man toast, he spoke about the happiness he felt for Jeff; Kenny said he was the “second happiest man in the room”. I might have disagreed with him, but I’m willing to call it a draw.

As close as they are, they are also two very distinct people. They have different strengths, personalities and challenges. Their weddings and receptions were somewhat different, yet both events were joyous, authentic, and affirming. And in one big way, Kenny and Jeff have this in common: they are now married to terrific women.

As the Dad of these two amazing men, I had a ‘front row seat’ to this beautiful exchange of love, admiration and support between my sons. This has struck me as the best part of each wedding. We don’t always make it a point to say the things we need to say to those close to us. We get busy, we wait for a better moment, or we just forget how important it is. But these two weddings gave me the greatest gift of all – I watched my sons tell each other (and the world) about how much they cared for each other.

I feel so blessed and couldn’t ask for anything more.

(This entry has no photos to look at. This was intentional on my part. So, how does it relate to photography? I think photography is important as one way to keep our memories. It’s not the only way, and I don’t always need a camera to capture the moment. These moments will never fade for me.)

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All aboard

Amtrak passes a roadside store.
Amtrak passes a roadside store.


I rode Amtrak to San Francisco to visit Kenny yesterday. It is a much better way to get to The City than driving. Instead of grinding it out in traffic, I was able to enjoy my coffee, read a book, listen to music, and watch the world pass by my window.

Carquniez Strat Bridges - new one on the left and old one on the right
Carquinez Strait Bridges - new one on the left and old one on the right

The train travels more or less along the Interstate 80 corridor and makes about three stops before Richmond. The Richmond station is a great place to jump on BART and finish the trip into San Francisco. 

ken lobby
Kenny sitting in the lobby of his apartment building.

We had a great day, grabbed some lunch, walked over to a nice park, stopped at Rogue for cold beer and had a crazy-packed-rush-hour-Muni-bus-ride back to the BART station.

A little girl is no match for a stubborn dog at Washington Square Park.
A little girl is no match for a stubborn dog at Washington Square Park.
A BART train streaks by as it leaves an underground station.
A BART train streaks by as it leaves an underground station.

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Looking Up



I usually carry a camera with me whenever I leave the house. I mean, if a UFO landed in front of you and aliens walked out, what’s the one thing you’d wish you had with you?

Sometimes I don’t feel like I see anything worth capturing – and I realize it is more about my apathetic mood and dip in creativity than it is about the surroundings. I know another person would find (and make) some great images in the same setting.

I was sitting at my favorite coffee place and happened to look up – the second floor “balcony” was reflecting the morning light and the soft clouds were perfectly aligned behind it. Without thinking about it too much, I snapped this shot. I realize it’s a little hard to orient the image at first.

I remember some advice from a photographer named DeWitt Jones – he said when you think you’ve gotten the perfect shot, turn around; an even better shot may be lurking behind you. When I turned around, I was facing a pillar, so in this case, Looking Up was a better idea.

Thank goodness a pigeon wasn’t sitting on the rail.

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